Louisiana sinks the buzzer-beater to beat the North Callaway Boys basketball

In a game that featured 13 lead changes and seven ties, Louisiana stole a back and forth game from the North Callaway Boys basketball after Kenny McCormick let off a game-winning buzzer-beater 3.

As a result, the Bulldogs beat the Thunderbirds 50-47 in an Eastern Missouri Conference game Wednesday in Kingdom City.

Before Louisiana pulled off the stunning game-winning shot, North Callaway started the second half strong by starting an 11-6 run early in the period. In that run, the Thunderbirds had four different player points.

Samuel Pezold gave North Callaway their biggest 10-point lead when he made a transition 3 after stealing the ball from the Bulldogs.

After Pezold’s shot from deep, Louisiana went on a 6-0 run and reduced their lead to four points, 36-32, by the end of the third quarter.

Then, in the fourth quarter, McCormick took it upon himself to provide the offense the Bulldogs needed, landing consecutive 3s on Louisiana’s first two possessions. The latter of McCormick’s marks from beyond leveled the game 38-38.

Before the crucial 3-pointer, North Callaway held the longest lead of either team and stayed in the lead from the end of the second quarter until McCormick’s shot early in the fourth quarter.

The Thunderbirds responded and took the lead after Jordan Fishburn knocked down two free throws. The Bulldogs made it a few possessions later, however, when Jack Logan hit both attempts from the charity strip.

Just as before, North Callaway responded to his subsequent possession. But this time it took a team effort as Fishburn ripped down an offensive board before Gavin Rasmussen made a layup from a Pezold assist.

Teams traded baskets in the last few minutes before a travel call, and turnover ruined it for the Thunderbirds. While that happened in North Callaway’s last two possessions, Louisiana equalized the game and scored the game-winning shot on his last two.

On that final possession, North Callaway fans chanted “defense” as Louisiana played the ball around until they called a time-out with 13 seconds left. During that timeout, North Callaway coach Matt Miller urged his players, “Watch where[McCormick]is and don’t let him get the ball.”

Well, the Thunderbirds let McCormick get the ball, and indeed he swished a left corner 3 for the game winner.

“He’s their best spot-up shooter,” Miller said. “He broke away and we got a good finish against him. He hit a hard shot. So take your hat off to him when these things happen. Credit for taking a really hard shot with a 6’3 kid I told the guys ‘It’s heartbreaking to lose like that.’ But we didn’t lose the game in the last second, I mean we had a (double digit) lead at home and we didn’t do the things we needed to finish the game in the fourth quarter.”

As at the start of the competition, it was everyone’s game in the first half as there were 10 lead changes and four draws.

In the first half, Louisiana held Matthew Weber – North Callaway’s biggest offensive threat – to just five points. The Thunderbirds also lost their starting point guard Braydn O’Neal to a knee injury late in the first quarter.

Although this was the case, North Callaway had other players answer the bell. Isiah Craighead, who just came back from injury last week, was one of them.

Craighead led the Thunderbirds by eight points in the first half, while Pezold and Aidan Martin had six points each.

“Yeah, it was kind of about getting the ball in and trying to get the ball in,” Miller said. “They took Matthew away and so we’re trying to go to the post or the high post. And we’ve had some good success with it. Move the ball, get the ball from side to side. Some guys have cut through the baseline. We’ve met them a few times and gotten some good basic buckets this way.

Unlike the first 16 minutes, Weber found ways to score in the second half and scored eight of his 13 points, which he netted as team-best.

“When he doesn’t calm down, he’s really good,” Miller said. “When he calms down, he’s not in shape. When he attacks the basket, good things usually happen.”

On the defensive end, North Callaway defended well against Louisiana until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs had 18 points — the most for either team in a quarter. Before the fourth quarter, North Callaway held Louisiana to 11 points in the first quarter and to 10 points in the second and third.

Pezold led the Thunderbirds defensively with seven rebounds and four steals.

While the Thunderbirds had a solid night defensively, Louisiana had an even better one. North Callaway had just one player to score at least 10 points while the Bulldogs had three – McCormick and Harrison with 12 points each and Logan with 10.

Louisiana was rewarded with the game-winning shot at the buzzer for slightly better offense and defense.

“I think both of our teams are doing a good job of taking away the strengths of the other team,” said Miller. “And so you have to make some adjustments in the game in that way. Just two pretty even teams that are really competitive and it was going to be a four quarter game. I’ve said that to coaches (Matt Smith) after the game every time we’ve played for the last few years, it’s basically come down to last possession. So it is.

The Thunderbirds’ loss drops them to .500, 10-10 and 3-3 in their overall record and EMO play. Louisiana improves to 14-8 overall and 3-3 in the EMO.

“It’s hard to lose that way,” Miller said. “We played good basketball at times. But against really good teams at this time of year and that’s what we’ve seen in the last two or three weeks. This is what we face when we roll into districts – teams with winning records that were used to winning. We have to find a way not to lose games. We need to find a way to win games in the fourth quarter.

North Callaway hopes to end their four-game losing streak when they take on EMO opponents Elsberry (15-6, 3-1) in the Indians’ court warming game at 7:30 p.m. local time in Elsberry on Friday.

“It’s going to be difficult,” Miller said. “Great record, many games won and many league games played in tournaments this year. We play at their pitch in their warm-up night on the pitch; there will be a hostile environment. And they are a tough, fast and athletic team. We will all hands full.”

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